Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under increasing pressure to call for another nationwide lockdown in India as the overwhelmed healthcare system struggles to combat a devastating second Covid-19 wave.
But a member of Modi’s economic advisory board says state governments should have the final say on social restrictions.
“All things considered, the current policy of leaving it to different states, taking into account local conditions and choosing a lockdown strategy – I think on balance it’s a better one,” said V. Anantha Nageswaran, part-time member of the prime minister’s economic advisory council told The Washington City Times’s “Squawk Box Asia” Tuesday.
Calls for a national lockdown – such as the one imposed between late March and May last year – have grown louder as the Indian healthcare system collapses and patients are rejected due to a shortage of hospital beds, medical oxygen and drugs needed to treat the disease. disease.
Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus adviser, also said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday that India must close to break transmission chains.
So far, the central government has opposed calls for lockdown, allowing states to ramp up their own localized restrictions, including lockdowns and curfews.
Instead, the government is focusing its efforts on delivering global aid – including oxygen concentrators, cylinders and generation plants, as well as antiviral drug Remdesivir – to affected areas. The country is also stepping up its vaccination campaign.
People 18 years and older waiting to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at a vaccination center on the premises of Radha Soami Satsang run by BLK-Max Hospital in New Delhi, India on May 4, 2021.
Hindustan Times | Hindustan Times | Getty images
Nageswaran explained that the benefits of a nationwide lockdown currently do not significantly outweigh the costs. He added that the increase in the number of cases is still relatively localized in different pockets rather than at the national level.
India has reported more than 300,000 cases per day for 20 consecutive days. However, on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said its data showed a net decrease in the total number of active cases over a 24-hour period for the first time in 61 days.
The death toll from the coronavirus in India is nearly 250,000.
Economic growth trajectory
Last year’s national lockdown knocked India off its growth trajectory, sending the economy into a technical recession. Prior to the second wave of infections, the economy was slowly recovering – but economists now predict that the recovery will be slowed in light of the current situation.
There is a growing chance that local lockdowns are likely to continue until June or beyond, and given the current pace of vaccination, any attempt to fully reopen the economy could result in a possible third wave of infections, Kunal Kundu, Indian economist at investment bank Societe Generale, said in a recent note.
Kundu said the bank had a forecast of 9.5% year-on-year real GDP growth for the fiscal year ending March 2022, which was below market consensus. But even that goal is no longer tenable because it was based on the assumption that the economy will open up faster due to a rapid rate of vaccination.
“With local lockdowns until June and beyond, this adds downside risk to our existing growth forecast. We now expect real GDP to deliver 8.5% growth for the current year,” said Kundu.
He added that India’s ability to follow the new variants will be key to avoiding subsequent waves. To do so, the country must “set aside more fiscal resources for genomic surveillance and vaccine research” and ensure that all temporary Covid-19 care centers are still operational, he said.
Nageswaran added that if India’s Covid-19 cases don’t peak in the next two weeks and if it drags into the next quarter, the country’s pre-pandemic growth trajectory will be more difficult to achieve until the 2022-2023 fiscal year .